Apple Has Jumped the Shark

September 29, 2007

Originally posted to ydnar.vox.com in September 2007.

I’m an Apple fanboy as much as the next guy (maybe more, I was in an Apple ad as a kid), but Jobs’s first second company has devolved so much of late from a customer-service standpoint that I felt some inexorable urge to write a “predict the downfall of Apple” post. None of their mistakes alone are enough to kill them, but put together it starts looking like Apple vs Microsoft circa 1990-something.

First, the poorly managed approach to locking down the iPhone. Issuing differing statements from different department heads, having Apple Store employees do an end-run around official policy with unlocked phones, and all but effectively pulling a Sony (ala PSP) with the iPhone firmware. Ultimately few companies survive owning the entire supply chain. Eventually, someone comes along with an alternative that breaks through and eventually widens that crack. The alternative doesn’t even have to be better—just different. Apple’s devotion to UI and asthetics cannot and will not sustain the company in the long term.

Web 2.0 as the iPhone SDK? Give me a break. Release a real SDK and grow the iPhone like a true platform, not a sealed revenue brick.

The iPhone’s UI will be replicated and commoditized. Again, it doesn’t have to be better, it just has to be slightly more accessible. The barrier to entry for joining the UIKit club is ~$400. What happens when Verizon ships a free Windows Mobile 7 phone with gesture/haptics based UI?

Second, the iTunes Store. This week’s launch of Amazon’s MP3 store is the first and biggest nail in the iTunes Store’s coffin. Not only is every track higher bitrate and DRM-free, albums cost less. The lower selection is irrelevant—that is a problem that time can and will solve. Amazon made the browse/buy process as trivial as Apple’s store with their download helper and 1-Click patent. It even adds the purchased tracks automatically to iTunes.

By this time next year, Amazon’s store will have at the very least the selection of iTunes, and every other music retailer will be scrambling to clone the experience.

Third: Apple completely fucking the 3rd party “Made for iPod” ecosystem with the latest round of iPod hardware. Not only does my $600 iPhone not work with my “Made for iPod” car adapter, there seems to be zero plan to ever do so. My options are to either A) buy another iPod, B) install (at my expense) a new adapter that conforms to whatever new standard Apple has issued or C) use CDs.

I’m done using CDs. I’m almost done using iPods too.